Harry Styles Vocal Health on SNL
Hello! So first and foremost I wan to put out there how much I love Harry and his voice. Dear god it’s SO COOL and unique. I love how when he’s in good vocal health he has all these different textures to it- the gruffness of his chest voice, the purity of his falsetto, the power of his belt. When the studio version of SOTT came out I couldn’t sing his praises enough. His voice sounded SO HEALTHY. He was making such good choices!!! Everything was relaxed and well supported. He let the song build naturally. He MUST have gotten some solid vocal training over his break because that isn’t something that can just happen over night. I was very impressed and very proud. I was also a bit nervous to see if these changes would hold when he started performing live….and…..it looks like I had good reason to be nervous.
Here’s the thing. There are a few reasons I’m so hard on Harry in particular when it comes to poor technique. First, compared to the other guys, his technique is the only one that’s actually physically DAMAGING. Could the other guys benefit from proper training? Sure. Of course. Every singer can. Even those who have been singing for years still should train on a regular basis. But the other boys’ bad habits are just that- bad habits. They aren’t going to do long term damage, not the way Harry’s are. The second reason is BECAUSE I know he can do (AND HAS DONE!!!!!) so much better!! I know he’s CAPABLE of so much more and so yeah, I’m hard on him because of that. And finally, I know exactly what he’s doing physically and exactly what’s going through his mind because I have the same exact bad habits and I can see him using the same exact thought process as to why he slips into these again.
Harry is the Ultimate Performer. He wants nothing more than to put on a good show for everyone, even if that means sacrificing his own vocal health. Now, that’s isn’t a HUGE problem…until it KEEPS happening. Which is what happened with OTRA. And possibly might be happening now, although that remains to be seen. One performance of one song slips into an entire show of this slips into two shows of this slips into the entire tour and wham, you’ve got nodes. I think the biggest problem with Harry’s performance last night is he doesn’t trust the material or HIMSELF to sell it the way it is. He feels he needs to overcompensate and big Big and Bold right from the start and that song is not built to be sung that way. He started at a level that he couldn’t sustain throughout the entire thing and had nowhere to go. That’s when he ran into trouble.
As soon as he opened his mouth, I knew it wasn’t going to go well. Don’t get me wrong, he sounds fantastic in the beginning…but like I said, there was nothing for him to build upon because he already started it at too high a height. His voice sounded raspy to me too, raspier than usual. That can be caused by a few things- he could have been dehydrated (you can’t sing right if you don’t pee white!), he could have been tired (we know he’s a morning person and that show is pretty late for him), he could have strained his voice at the concert the night before, he could have over rehearsed, he could have smoked a bit. I don’t know what the cause was, but he didn’t start off the evening in the best vocal health, especially for a song that’s very difficult to sing. I also think he KNEW that so again, he tried to overcompensate for that by pushing.
There is so much tension throughout his whole body, particular his shoulders on up. I’m sure a lot of that is due to nerves. I’ve said it many times before and I’ll say it again: the SNL stage is one of the hardest venues for artists to play. There’s something particularly rough about it. He’s also always had problems tensing up his face when he sings, but it what was particularly striking to me was that he did it during the falsetto parts. That should have been EASY for him to sing. That’s something light and relaxed. Almost a break from the tension of the rest of the song…and yet he looks like he was in pain. Which makes me wonder if he WAS in pain. it’s hard to tell, but it almost seems like the second time he does it he pushes it more to a mix than a pure falsetto.
It’s notable to me how relaxed the second syllable of “bullets” around 2:44-2:48 is compared to the rest. THAT is what the whole thing should have sounded like. it’s relaxed and he’s got a great vibratto on it that comes straight from the diaphragm there- compare that to how tight “bullets” are the second time he sings it in that phrase at 2:58ish-3:04. Why did you change what you were doing, sir??? In fact, to me it seemed like he KNEW it sounded good the first time and did his cute li’l dance and then came back to it feeling like “yeah I got this…” and then tightened right back up again. because he didn’t trust himself.
Thennnnnn the bridge happens. And this is what i mean by he had nowhere to go. THIS should have been his first belt it out moment. but he pushed too hard too quickly and his voice just…wasn’t there. It was tired. The first scoop up to the first “we” was off key because of it and I think he knew it which made it even worse and MORE tense to the point where he just didn’t have the vocal agility to flip into his fasletto again for “learn”. And then we’ve got the “it’s just what we know” which was just a poor choice. I have a feeling he nailed that MULTIPLE times in rehearsals and mannnnn if he was in good vocal health how killer would that have sounded!??!!? But instead, we got what’s called harmonic distortion which is SUPER VERY YIKESY AND A BIG SIGN OF HOLYSHITYOU’REDOINGDAMAGE (i sincerely hope he has an appointment with an ENT this week and gets scoped to check that out). This was another instance of him trying to put on a great show and overcompensate for what he probably felt was lackluster vocals (which for the record WERE NOT THAT BAD. I’m picking it apart because…well, it’s what I do. and i don’t think I would have had too much of a problem if it weren’t for the super damaging choices he ended up making).
From there he’s thinking “Oh shit that was bad…I REALLY fucked up…better step up my game and make the end better!” and once again tries to overcompensate and push a voice that’s already been pushed to the brink. there just wasn’t more in there for it to give. He couldn’t sustain it. He had already given everything that there was go to give.
When it comes to ESNY, it was a much better performance. I think it’s partially due to the fact that it’s an easier song to sing and partially due to the fact that he was playing guitar so he wasn’t as much in his head (Side note: CAN YOU BELIEVE HE FINALLY BLESSED US WITH HIS GUITAR SKILLS?????). His belty part towards the end wasn’t as good as it could have been, but I think that’s just due to the fact that his voice was kinda shot and that’s the best it was going to be. It wasn’t TERRIBLE and obviously it could have been better, but I am curious to hear the studio version to see if there’s more belting that he just wasn’t comfortable with last night. I could have done without the facial affectations because it just adds more tension and tension is bad, kiddos But I think it’s a stylistic choice and I’m trying to pick my battles here. Additionally, as we’ve seen in gif form his li’l neck vein was popping out so yeah he was tensing up pretty good there…but again, it wasn’t as terrible as it could have been since the song itself isn’t as taxing vocally.
All in all, the performances were great, especially if you’re not as picky as I am. I know this was his first time singing live in well over a year and SNL is high stress and it’s his first time out there ALONE. I’m curious to see what happens on Graham Norton and if he improves his technique. I’m also really curious to see how he’ll be on tour as well. I do wonder if he’ll lower the key of SOTT so it’s not as taxing. No one would really notice and it would make things a little easier on him. It’s just frustrating because I know he has it in him to do it well. We’ve HEARD him do it well. But he just doesn’t trust himself enough to do that and that kind of breaks my heart a little. Thankfully, he’s young and has time to learn. He can still break these habits and make new, healthier ones and learn to trust himself more.
BUDDY. YOU GOT THIS. YOU HAVE AN AMAZING VOICE. YOU ARE A FANTASTIC SONGWRITER. YOU HAVE GREAT TECHNIQUE WHEN YOU PUT YOUR MIND TO IT. YOU ARE A KILLER SHOWMAN WITH A TON OF CHARISMA. PLEASE TRUST THESE THINGS AND STOP PUSHING YOURSELF BECAUSE I DON’T WANT TO SEE YOU DAMAGE ANYTHING.